Building Better Communities | VIEWS OF NEVADA
Early in his presidency, George Washington believed that the promotion of science and literature was the basis of public happiness and that they were also the very basis of democracy. If Nevada were to use health care as a substitute for science and public education as a substitute for literature, Washington would have reason to worry. Nevada currently ranks in the bottom half of states for health care quality and ranks 45th for public school systems.
Are education and health care linked?
The medical literature is full of studies suggesting strong and consistent relationships between the quality of education and the quality of health. Ultimately, more educated people live longer and are healthier. Why? Education promotes critical thinking skills and social skills that prepare individuals to understand the value of a healthy lifestyle and drive them to achieve it. Data from the National Academy of Medicine shows that less educated adults are more likely to be obese, smoke, use drugs and abstain from exercise.
The “social determinants of health” are the factors in our environment that directly affect health independently of biological determinants such as the immune system, cardiovascular system or digestive system. The social determinants of health include resources in a person’s neighborhood, access to healthy food, access to transportation, financial stability, and of course access to education and health care. health. The social determinants of health contribute to large disparities in health care among people who differ only in the location of their homes.
To best improve the health of all communities, we must address the impacts of social determinants. Education provides a pathway out of poverty and is the most fundamental determinant.
What does this mean for Las Vegas?
Recently, the Clark County School District and UNLV’s Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine partnered to provide clinical care to elementary school students. Although initially a pilot project, there are plans to add additional schools and for UNLV to provide after-school classes on healthy lifestyles in university schools of education, dentistry, nursing, public health, integrative health and medicine. Such partnerships are natural because healthcare providers are responsible for improving the health of the communities in which they reside.
Education can prevent disease. Knowing what foods to eat, what foods to avoid, knowing preventive health measures such as vaccinations, and understanding the vital role that physical activity contributes to health are simple examples. Education can also lead to a better workforce and more informed citizens, and education can help stabilize the economy by providing a diverse workforce. The combination of education and health care, as in the UNLV/CCSD model, can be expected to produce healthier and more educated citizens. Improving access to health care can reduce disparities and create better communities.
Dr. Marc J. Kahn is Dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine and Vice President of Health Affairs at UNLV. Jesus F. Jara is superintendent of the Clark County School District.